Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac will miss tonight’s game against the Hornets because he was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol.
Isaac was hit in the jaw during the first quarter of Sunday’s 116-108 win against the Celtics and began to experience further concussion symptoms, which led to team doctors placing him in the protocol. The young forward didn’t travel with the team to Charlotte to begin the protocol process in Orlando.
Jonathan Isaac started the third quarter against the Celtics before being replaced by Wes Iwundu at the 5:38 mark and he didn’t play the rest of the game. He finished with six points and three rebounds in 22 minutes.
Magic Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Hornets
*Notates expected starter
C: Nikola Vucevic*, Khem Birch
PF: Aaron Gordon*, Amile Jefferson
SF: Wes Iwundu*, Jarell Martin
SG: Evan Fournier*, Terrence Ross
PG: D.J. Augustin*, Michael Carter-Williams
The Magic have nothing to play for but seeding; they’re in seventh place in the Eastern Conference but if they beat the Hornets and the Nets lose to the Heat they can move up to sixth place and face the Sixers instead of the Raptors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Still, the Hornets should be more motivated than them and the Magic could also be without star center Nikola Vucevic, who didn’t attend this morning’s shootaround due to a stomach illness and is listed as questionable.
“He’s sick enough, I mean I don’t think we’re going to know obviously until right before the game,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.
If Vucevic doesn’t play, Khem Birch would replace him the starting lineup and Amile Jefferson would be the backup center. Vucevic leads the Magic with 20.8 points and 12.0 rebounds in 31.4 minutes over 80 games this season and he’s posted 60 double-doubles.
The Hornets are one game behind the Pistons for the No. 8 seed and they need to beat the Magic and a little help from the Knicks to get in. These are the potential scenarios:
If the Pistons beat the Knicks, they’re in, regardless of what happens with the Hornets.
If the Pistons lose to the Knicks and the Hornets lose to the Magic, the Pistons are in.
If the Pistons lose to the Knicks and the Hornets beat the Magic, the Hornets are in.
With Isaac out, Wes Iwundu (5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds) will get the start at small forward and even though he’s been a big part of their rotation, Isaac has a plus-2.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) against Iwundu’s plus-0.6 and Iwundu’s backup will be Jarell Martin (minus-0.6 Defensive Box Plus/Minus), which hurts the Magic’s depth, particularly on defense.
Iwundu started six games earlier in the season when Isaac was out with an ankle injury and the Magic went 4-2 in those contests. Iwundu is averaging 10.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 19.3 minutes over three games against the Hornets this season but just 4.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 17.7 minutes over 12 starts this year.
The Hornets have won four straight games, including last night’s 124-97 road victory against the Cavaliers and even though only Nicolas Batum was on the court for over 30 minutes, they had to travel back home and playing in the second game of a back-to-back is always hard, especially against a very good Magic team that has been resting since Sunday.